Maple Bat Cookies
Helena says: “I came back from a recent trip to Canada full of ideas for maple-flavoured goodies. These cheeky bat cookies were one of the first things I tried and I was so pleased with the result – crispy and buttery with a wonderful maple flavour. Make a little rectangular slit in the bottom of some of them so they can sit on the rim of your favourite teacup, but be careful – these bats can quickly fly away.”
MAKES ABOUT 24
You will need
- 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 90ml maple syrup
- 50g light brown sugar
- 200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- royal icing
- black sanding sugar
- red food colour
- Beat the butter, maple syrup and brown sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Mix the flours and salt together in a bowl with a fork.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated, making sure to scrape the sides and base of the bowl. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour. I sometimes leave it overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 170°C fan [375°F/Gas mark 5] and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Roll the dough out on a floured surface and cut out shapes using a bat cookie cutter or a template. Place on the prepared baking tray and bake for 12–14 minutes until the edges start to brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Brush some royal icing on the wings and sprinkle with the black sanding sugar.
- Colour some royal icing red. Dip a cocktail stick in the red icing and dot onto the cookie for the eyes, dragging the stick up to create a point. Repeat with uncoloured icing for the fangs, this time dragging the stick down.
- Eat the cookies within 4 days.
Spiderweb-Top Mince Pies
Helena says: “This is an easy and effective way to give a little spooky touch to a Christmas classic. In Germany spiders play a big role at Christmas due to the story of the little spider who decorated the Christmas tree with its web. Apparently this is where the tradition of decorating the tree with tinsel comes from.”
You will need
- 230g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 135g cold salted butter, cubed
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tbsp cold water (optional)
- non-stick spray, for greasing
- 1 whole egg, for brushing
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, for glazing
- Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
- 400g jar of good-quality mincemeat
- finely grated zest of 1 small unwaxed lemon
- 1 small apple, cored and finely chopped
- handful of pecan nuts, roughly chopped
- Sift the flour into a medium bowl, add the cubed butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively, pulse in a food processor. Add the caster sugar and egg yolks and mix with your hands until the dough is just coming together, adding the cold water if necessary. Do not overmix.
- Flatten the pastry into a disc and wrap in clingfilm.
- Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C fan [400°F/Gas mark 6].
- Grease a 12-hole muffin tin with non-stick spray. To make the filling, pour the mincemeat into a large bowl, add the lemon zest, apple and pecans and mix until fully incorporated.
- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 3mm thick. Cut out 12 pastry discs with a circumference slightly bigger your tin holes, then press each disc into the holes. Fill each one with the mincemeat mixture.
- Cut out another 12 discs, a little smaller this time, for the tops. Stamp out with a spiderweb cutter if you have one, or simply draw on a spiderweb design with a pastry tool or sharp knife.
- Brush the rims of each pastry case with beaten egg and press the lids on top. Seal around the edges with a fork or your little finger. Poke a hole in the middle to allow the steam to escape, then brush the tops with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with Demerara sugar.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Vanilla Coffin Cakes
Helena says: “These individual cakes are decorated with swirls of pastel buttercream and remind me of the 1970s’ revival of Edwardian fashion – frilly, lacy and fancy. What’s not to love? The sponge is my go-to vanilla cake recipe, which is wonderfully moist and uncomplicated, but so delicious.”
MAKES 2 MEDIUM CAKES OR 4 SMALL ONES / SERVES 4
You will need
- 95g unsalted butter, softened
- 95ml vegetable oil
- 135g caster sugar
- 120ml sour cream
- 60ml whole milk
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 220g plain flour, sifted
- 11/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 240g unsalted butter, softened
- 480g icing sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- pink, purple and yellow food colours, or your choice
- Preheat the oven to 170°C fan [375°F/Gas mark 5] and line a 27 x 18-cm rectangular baking tin with baking paper.
- Beat the butter, oil and sugar in a stand mixer, or use a handheld electric whisk, until light and fluffy. Add the sour cream, milk and vanilla and beat until combined, then add the eggs, one by one, mixing well between each addition.
- Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix, scraping down the sides and base of the bowl occasionally, until completely combined. Do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 20–25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin, then tip it out onto a wire rack and leave until completely cooled.
- Level the cake with a serrated knife.
- Draw a coffin shape, about 19 x 9cm (for the larger ones) or 13 x 7cm for the smaller version) on a piece of paper and use it as a template to cut out your cakes.
- To make the buttercream, beat the butter in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar, sour cream, vanilla and salt and continue mixing until everything is incorporated.
- Divide the buttercream among 4 different bowls and add food colour to 3 bowls. Make sure you add the colour a little at a time as we are going for pastel shades here.
- Reserve the white buttercream to use for decorative scrolls and lines, or use royal icing instead.
- Apply pastel buttercream to the sides and top of each coffin cake and decorate with white buttercream or royal icing. The designs are up to you; I did a cross for one and a grid pattern for the other two featured in the photo.
Recipes are taken from The Wicked Baker by Helena Garcia (Quadrille, £12.99). Photography ©Patricia Niven